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The Crypt of
Anubis prepares the mummy,
from the papyrus of Ani,
by Salvador Cherubini.
Excerpted from La Mort De Philae
by Pierre Loti, 1924
Deep in the tomb of Pharaoh Amenophis...
The soul used to depart simultaneously under two forms: a
flame [The Khou, which never returned to our world] and a falcon [The Bai (Ba), which might, at its will, revisit the tomb]. And this country of shadows,
called also the West, to which the soul had to journey, was where
the moon sinks and where each evening the Sun goes down. It is a country to
which the living were never able to attain, it fled before
them, however fast they might travel across the sands.
On its arrival there, the soul had to parley
successively with the fearsome demons who lay in wait for it along its
route. If at last it was judged worthy to approach Osiris, the soul was subsumed in him and reappeared as a star, shining over the
world the next morning and on all succeeding mornings until the
consummation of time. It was a vague survival in solar splendour, a
continuation without personality, parallel to Buddhist no-thingness.
To care for the Bai it was thought necessary to preserve the body at whatever cost,
for the Bai of the dead man continued to dwell in the dry
flesh, and retained a kind of partial life, barely conscious. Sometimes, too, this double, escaping
from the mummy and its box, would wander like a phantom about the
tomb. In order that at such times it might be able to obtain
nourishment, a mass of mummified viands were
among the thousand and one things buried at its side. Even natron
and oils were left, so that it might re-embalm itself.
And for Amenophis II this more or less is the story of his
After three or four
hundred years passed, lulled in heavy slumber, he heard the sound of muffled blows
in the distance, by the side of the hidden well. The secret entrance
was discovered: men were breaking through its walls! Living beings
were about to appear, pillagers of tombs, no doubt, come to rob, to destroy!
But no! It is the chanting priests of Osiris, advancing, trembling, in
a funeral procession. With them they brought nine great coffins, the
mummies of nine kings. Amenophis was joined by his sons, grandsons and other unknown
successors, down to King Setnakht, who governed Egypt two and a
half centuries after him. It was to hide them better that they
brought them hither, and placed them all together in a chamber that
was immediately walled up. Then they departed. The stones of the door
were sealed afresh, and everything fell again into the old mournful
and burning darkness.
Slowly the centuries rolled on--perhaps ten, perhaps twenty--in a
silence no longer even disturbed by the scratchings of the insects. And a day came when the same
blows were heard again at the entrance . . . . This time it was the robbers.
Carrying torches in their hands, they rushed headlong in, with shouts
and cries. Everything was plundered except the hiding-place of the nine coffins. Then, when they had secured
their booty, they walled up the entrance as before. They left an inextricable confusion of shrouds, of shattered vases, of broken gods and emblems.
by Prisse d'Avennes 1878
Afterwards, for long centuries, there was silence again. Finally,
in our days, the Bai perceived the noise of stones being unsealed by blows
of pickaxes yet again. The third time, the living men who entered were of a kind
never seen before. At first they seemed respectful and pious, only
touching things gently.
But they came to plunder everything, even the
nine coffins in their still inviolate hiding-place. They gathered the
smallest fragments with a solicitude almost religious. That they might
lose nothing they sifted the rubbish and the dust. But, as for
Amenophis, who was already nothing more than a lamentable mummy,
without jewels or bandages, they left him at the bottom of his
sarcophagus of sandstone. And since that day, doomed to receive each
morning numerous people of a strange aspect, he dwells alone in his
tomb, where there is now neither a being nor a thing belonging to
And then, suddenly, black night! And we stand as if congealed in our
place. The electric light has gone out--everywhere at once. Above, on
the Earth, midday must have sounded for those who still have
awareness of the Sun and the hours.
The guard who has brought us hither shouts in his Bedouin falsetto to get the light switched on again, but the infinite thickness
of the walls, instead of prolonging the vibrations, seems to deaden
them. Who could hear us, in the depths where we now are?
Then, groping in the absolute darkness, he makes his way up the
sloping passage. The hurried patter of his sandals and the flapping of
his burnous grow faint in the distance, and the cries that he
continues to utter soften and fade, so smothered that it seems we might
ourselves be buried. Meanwhile we do not move.
But how comes it
that it is so hot among these mummies? It seems as if there were
fires burning in some oven close by. And above all there is a want of
air. Perhaps the corridors, after our passage, have contracted, as
happens sometimes in the anguish of dreams. Perhaps the long fissure
by which we have crawled hither has closed in upon us.
The Weighing of the Heart.
by G. Angelelli ,1832
At length the light is turned on
again. The Bedouin is now returned, breathless from his journey. He urges us
to come to see the king before the electric light is again
extinguished, and this time permanently.
Tomb of Rameses VI.
Hand colored photo from Elysian Fields c.1920.
Star Chart, roof of the crypt, tomb of Ramesses VII
The sky goddess Nut reaches over two lines of constellations.
From La Description de l'Egypte, 1809.
Behold us now at the end
of the hall, on the edge of a dark crypt, leaning over and peering
within. It is a place oval in form, with a vault of black,
relieved by frescoes, either white or the color of ashes. They
represent, these frescoes, a whole new register of gods and demons,
some slim and sheathed narrowly like mummies, others with big heads
and big bellies like hippopotami. Placed on the ground and watched
from above by all these figures is an enormous sarcophagus of stone,
wide open. In it we can distinguish vaguely the outline of a human
body: the Pharaoh!
We should have liked to see him better. The necessary light
is forthcoming at once: the Bedouin touches
an electric button and a powerful lamp illuminates the face of
Amenophis, detailing with a clearness that almost frightens you: the
closed eyes, the grimacing countenance, and the whole of the sad
mummy. This theatrical effect took us by surprise; we were not
prepared for it.
He was buried in magnificence, but the pillagers have stripped him of
everything, even of his beautiful breastplate of tortoise shell, which
came to him, a gift from a far-off Oriental country. For many centuries
now he has slept half naked on his rags. But his poor bouquet is there
still--of mimosa, recognisable even now. Who will ever tell what
pious or perhaps amorous hand it was that gathered these flowers for
him more than three thousand years ago?
The heat is suffocating. The whole crushing mass of this mountain into which we have crawled like white ants seems to weigh upon
our chest. And these figures too, inscribed on every side, and this
mystery of the hieroglyphs and the symbols, cause a growing
uneasiness. You are too near them, they seem too much the masters of
the exits, these gods with their heads of falcon, ibis and jackal.
On the walls they converse in a continual exalted pantomime.
From the tomb of Ramsses IX.
the feeling comes over you, that it is sacrilege standing
there, before this open coffin, in this unwonted insolent light. The
shrunken face seems to ask for mercy:
"Yes, yes, my sepulchre has been violated and I am returning to dust.
But now that you have seen me, leave me, turn out that light, have
pity on my nothingness."
Indeed, what a mockery! To have adopted
so many stratagems to hide his corpse; to have exhausted thousands of
men in the hewing of this underground labyrinth, and to end thus, with
his head in the glare of an electric lamp, to amuse whoever passes.
I think it was the poor bouquet of mimosa that
awakened me. I say to the Bedouin: "Yes, put out the light, put it
out--that is enough."
And then the darkness returns above the royal countenance, which is
suddenly invisible in the sarcophagus. The phantom of the Pharaoh is
vanished, plunged into the unfathomable past. The audience is
at an end.
And we, who are able to escape,
ascend rapidly towards the sunshine of the living, we go to breathe
the air again, the air to which we have still a right--for some few
Excerpted from La Mort De Philae
by Pierre Loti, 1909, 1924
Anubis, Guardian of the fields of the dead.
This life-size statue was found at the foot of Tutankhamen's coffin.
Ramsses III, Exalted, from the Champollion expedition, 1835.
The Valley Of The Kings
Eternal Palaces of New Kingdom Pharaohs
The Valley of the Kings Part 1
Pharaoh Amenophis' tomb Part 2
Part 3: The Crypt
Giovanni Belzoni and the tomb of Seti I
Ancient Egyptian Artist techniques in the Tomb of Seti I
Valley of the Kings Photos
Valley of the Queens -
Valley of the Queens
Nefertari a rarely seen Egyptian treasure
Deir el Medina: Tombs of the craftsmen.
Countless beautiful 19th century images of ancient Egypt
and 75 pages of architecture, art and mystery
are linked from the library page:
The Egyptian Secrets Library